When it comes to thyroid problems, the medical community doesn’t have a common stand on the cause of low thyroid conditions. In fact the issue of cause rarely even comes up when you go to the doctor complaining of fatigue, weight gain, hair loss and brain fog. What they can agree on is an overly simplistic treatment: Look at the TSH levels and then give thyroid hormone if it is to high, and take some away if its too low. This approach often fails in the long run, and even in the short run if the problem comes from any of the other likely sources of thyroid dysfunction.
I have written previously about some of the important causes of thyroid disorders– autoimmune attack (Hashimoto’s disease), thyroid hormone conversion, adrenal gland insufficiency, or glucose surges. But in this article I would like to discuss one of the more common causes, improper iodine level.
Iodine is absolutely necessary for proper thyroid function, but it turns out that it must be in a narrow range or thyroid function decreases. High iodine levels may also cause autoimmune reactions and considering that 80% of women who have low thyroid have Hashimoto’s disease, this is a real problem.
The number one cause worldwide for thyroid problems is inadequate iodine in food. Once this was discovered, iodine was added to salt to decrease the problem, but then we found that the added iodine was causing Hashimoto’s disease. This happened in many countries like Sri Lanka, Turkey, Brazil and Greece just to mention a few.
How is this possible?
This happens because high levels of Iodine cause inflammation in the thyroid, which then increases the autoimmune attack. But we have also found that when selenium is provided at the same time, the effect can be neutralized and people with immune problems can slowly, over a few months, increase their iodine intake to increase thyroid function.
Iodine deficiency isn’t only a problem for the thyroid, in fact, the salivary glands (dry mouth), brain (brain fog), stomach (GERD) and skin (dry skin and lack of sweating), Breasts (fibrocystic), and muscles (pain, nodules = Fibromyalgia) all need iodine to function properly. This list shows how divergent the symptoms can be, making it very difficult to nail down the root cause for the doctor.
So how do you find out if you are deficient in iodine? Well, the test normally done with your doctor is not very accurate. It simply measures the iodine in your blood at a given time. This can’t tell you if you need more or less iodine. To do that we need to learn about how your body actually functions with iodine. The best test for this is a 24-hour urine-loading test. You’ll get a dose of iodine and then your urine will be collected for 24 hours. If you are low in iodine then you will retain more iodine than would be expected showing that you are deficient. When this happens I start the patient on a very, very low dose of iodine along with selenium and increase very slowly over time. This treatment can make a HUGE difference in the symptoms of thyroid, but like I said, may also make things worse if not done properly.
One last thing–if you do have Hashimoto’s (autoimmune) then you might need to decrease your daily intake of kale and spinach or sweet potatoes, millet and broccoli to about, 1-2 times per week. The reason is that these are goitrogens, which means that they cause goiters because they decrease the uptake of iodine and in high levels the iodine you do have can’t be properly utilized. But, then again, that’s why we test for iodine levels when there is a question of iodine status.
So, balance is the key and when you’re armed with the information provided by appropriate lab testing it is possible to get your thyroid function to the place you were hoping for, and you won’t be one of those people that say, “How come I have all these thyroid symptoms but my lab tests are normal.”
Dr. Davis is a BOARD CERTIFIED CHIROPRACTIC NEUROLOGIST in Walnut Creek. He has been serving individuals with chronic pain for 30 years. For information about how you can get a free consultation with Dr. Davis, call (925) 279-4325 (HEAL). Visit us at WalnutCreekThyroidInstitute.com